Novel Treatment Options For Heart Disease
A fascinating article from the esteemed Dr Mercola, on the real reasons behind the occurrence of heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, angina and strokes. (Note the reference to Earthing and the importance of walking barefoot wherever/whenever possible, especially by or in the sea. I can recommend the book 'Earthing' by Ober, Sinatra (no, not that one!) and Zucker.)
DR MERCOLA WRITES...
We have an epidemic of heart disease in this country and the conventional treatments, such as the use of statin drugs and surgeries involving artery bypasses and stents, typically do not work well. So, what does?
Dr. Thomas Cowan is a family physician and a founding member of the Weston A. Price Foundation. In his book, "Human Heart, Cosmic Heart: A Doctor's Quest to Understand, Treat, and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease," which is also available as an audiobook from Audible, he helps answer that question. It's a fascinating book, and not overly technical, making it an excellent addition to any layman's health library.
"Basically, the book has three parts," Cowan says. "For whatever reason, my destiny in my career is that I take on some of the biggest accepted wisdoms … [and] I try to figure out whether they're actually true or not. The first part is my [personal] story … [In] the second part, I examine the theory that the heart is a pump. I say that the heart is not a pump. Then I explain why the blood moves and what the heart is doing, and the interesting ramifications of that. The third part is … [about] what causes heart attacks … Here is an interesting point: I learned in medical school there were four major coronary arteries. In some places, it says three. In some places, it says two. Even the basics of how many major coronary arteries we have is actually in dispute. It's a matter of semantics."
Questioning the Role of Arterial Plaque in Heart Attacks
Regardless of the exact number, conventional wisdom states that the coronary arteries, i.e., major blood vessels, supply all of the blood flow to the heart. If one or more of them gets blocked with plaque, a bottleneck forms that prevents blood from getting through.
The area downstream from that blockage doesn't get any blood, and hence no oxygen or nutrients. The first indication that this is occurring is pain, which we call angina. As the problem progresses, the pain worsens, which is called unstable angina. Eventually, if left untreated, you end up with a heart attack.
The field of cardiology is primarily focused on getting rid of the plaque, whether by using stents, doing bypasses, angioplasties, lowering cholesterol (since the plaque is supposedly caused by excess cholesterol) or putting the patient on a low-fat diet.
"[Conventionally], it's all about the plaque," Cowan says. "My point in the book is that it's NOT about the plaque."
The Problem With Viewing the Heart as a Pump
Cardiologists and doctors in general are taught that the walls of the heart create pressure, which causes propulsion of the blood through the body. In essence, the heart is viewed as a pump — a pressure propulsion system caused by the muscular contraction of the ventricles.
However, your body actually contains an enormous amount of blood vessels. Most of the blood vessels in your heart and body are capillaries, which are very thin-walled, very narrow tubes. If you were to spread these blood vessels out, they would cover three football fields. If you were to place the blood vessels end to end, in a series, they would encircle the Earth between one and three times.
"The pump theory is you have a 1-pound, somewhat thin-walled organ, and it's going to pump [blood] around the Earth every single day for 70 years; 60 to 70 times a minute. That 1-pound, thin-walled organ can [supposedly] generate enough pressure [to do that] by squeezing … Frankly, that's ridiculous. But it actually gets worse than that. If you do a flow velocity diagram, it turns out that the blood is moving the fastest at the heart, both before and after the heart.
As it goes into the arterioles and then the smaller arteries, it gets to the capillaries … [where] it actually stops and does a little shimmy, or it goes very slow, depending on who you believe … The analogy is, a narrow river goes fast and when it goes out into a wetland, it goes very slow.
It has to go slow — it has to stop almost — to exchange the gasses and the food. So not only are we pushing all the way around the Earth, but halfway around our travel, we stop and then we get going again. You're expecting that to be all from the push from behind …
It even gets worse than that because we have an outflow tube of the left ventricle called the aortic arch … which is shaped like McDonald's arch. The blood goes from the left ventricle, out the aortic valve, through the arch, then down to the body.
The analogy here is if you stick a similarly shaped arched garden hose off your spigot outside your house, and then turn it on really hard, which recreates the pumping … you would expect the garden hose to straighten out because if you put pressure, the arch would straighten.
In fact, you can look on any angiogram and catheterization and you can see that arch actually bends in a little bit during systole, which from a pressure propulsion model makes absolutely no sense at all."
The Hydraulic Ram Model of the Heart
Clearly, if your heart stops beating, you won't live very long, but if the heart isn't actually pumping the blood, how does it work? In his book, Cowan describes the heart as a hydraulic ram, which he explains thus:
"What does the heart do? The blood is moving fast. It comes into the heart. The heart stops the blood, and like a hydraulic ram, it holds it back. The walls expand. The pressure differential happens, and then it opens the gate and comes out.
More so when the blood is in the heart, because of the unique shape of the heart … The heart is a vortex-creating machine … [I]t has these trabeculae (fibers) inside the heart. Each area of the trabeculae is connected with a certain part of the body. [One] area of the heart is connected with the spleen, another area of the inner part of the heart is connected with the foot, and so on.
The blood comes in and these areas of the heart create their individual spirals, and package up certain parts of the blood, like the old red blood cells, into a vortex and send it to the spleen, whereas another part sends the fresh new red blood cells up to the brain. If there's a cut on your leg, it dissolves some of the inner fibers, puts that in a vortex and sends that to the cut on your leg. It's so wild. Again, there's an article about this on my website, as hard as it is to believe, that actually documents that in very clear terminology how this happens."
What's Water Got to Do With It?
Interestingly, the work of Gerald Pollack, author of "The Fourth Phase of Water," was instrumental in helping Cowan understand the function of the heart and how blood flows if it isn't being pushed or pumped by the heart.
First off, if any pumping action were to be involved, it would actually have to occur at the capillaries because that's where the blood stops and needs to get moving again. However, the solution nature came up with is far simpler. As the blood moves up the venous tree, the blood vessels narrow and eventually coalesce to come back to the heart.
This narrowing of the vessels makes the blood flow faster, in and of itself. Valves and muscular contractions also play a role. However, the primary way blood moves has to do with water. As Pollack has described, water can exist in four phases, not just three. The fourth phase of water is formed by the interaction of water and a hydrophilic surface.
"What happens with that is you form a gel layer, or protective layer, on that hydrophilic surface, which is negatively charged. Therefore, the opposite of positive charge is dissolved into the bulk water in the middle of the tube (capillary or blood vessel) … All you need is a hydrophilic tube, which forms a gel layer, which is negatively charged, and then the bulk water is positively charged. The positive charges repel each other and that starts the flow going up the hill," Cowan explains.
Sun, Earth and the Human Touch — 3 Key Principles for Healthy Blood Flow
Pollack has also clearly demonstrated there are three natural energies that result in separation of charges that create flow:
1. Sunlight charges up your blood vessels, which increases the flow of blood. When the sun's rays penetrate your skin, it causes a massive increase of nitric oxide that acts as a vasodilator. As much as 60 percent of your blood can be shunted to the surface of your skin through the action of nitric oxide. This helps absorb solar radiation, which then causes the water in your blood to capture the energy and become structured.
This is a key component for a healthy heart. The ideal is to be exposed to the sun while grounding, meaning walking barefoot. This forms a biological circuit that makes it work even better.
2. Negative ions from the Earth, also known as earthing or grounding. This also charges up your blood vessels, creates a separation of charges, creates more positive ions and allows the blood to flow upward, against gravity.
3. The field effect or touch from another living being, such as laying on of hands. As noted by Cowan, "The best thing is to be, more or less, with shorts or naked on the beach, with the saltwater, which acts as an electrical conductor, holding hands with somebody you love. That's how you structure the water." Sun exposure, grounding and skin-to-skin contact are three prevention strategies that, ideally, everyone should be doing. It doesn't get a whole lot easier or less expensive than that. "The water is a battery. Those inputs separate the charges, charge the battery, the battery does work and it starts flow. That flow, just through Bernoulli's principle, which is the wider it is, the slower it goes, [when it] narrows, it goes faster. That is the reason the blood moves, in a nutshell."
Does Plaque Really Cause Heart Attacks?
As mentioned, Cowan does not ascribe to the plaque theory of heart disease. Instead, he makes a strong case for heart disease being a problem rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction. What's wrong with the plaque theory? For starters, if plaque were responsible, there would have to be something in the blood or blood vessels causing the plaque, such as cholesterol or inflammation.
And, since all blood vessels are identical — there's no difference between the splenic artery, the femoral artery or the coronary artery, for example — if there's plaque in one artery, there should be plaque everywhere, and an attack should theoretically occur just about anywhere in the body, depending on where the blockage is. Yet people do not have "spleen attacks," or "foot attacks," which would be the result of a bottleneck of plaque forming near these organs.
"There is such a thing as renal artery ischemia. But basically, there are only two organs that have attacks. The brain, we call that a stroke, and the heart, we call that a myocardial infraction (MI) or a heart attack," Cowan says.
"Why not the other organs? Because that suggests there's something different about those organs. It's not the blood vessels because the blood vessels, they're the same. There's something different about the heart and the brain that's causing the attacks. It's not the blood flow."
In the '40s and '50s when the plaque theory began to emerge, most cardiologists rejected it, noting there's massive collateral circulation between the coronary arteries and this massive network of fine blood vessels. It doesn't really matter whether one area gets blocked or not, because the whole thing is like the wetlands; it will simply compensate for a blockage in one area by increasing blood flow elsewhere.
What's Wrong With the Plaque Theory?
Post-mortem autopsy studies (which are available on Cowan's website, humanheartcosmicheart.com), looking at arterial blockages in the area leading to the part that had an attack showed that only 18 percent were actually blocked. That means that in 82 percent of cases, a blocked artery was NOT the cause of the heart attack.
So, what caused it? In another study, 66 percent of normal 50-year-olds who died in car accidents were found to have a one or more, greater than 90 percent stenosis or blockage of a coronary artery! Yet none of them had any symptoms.
"I'm not saying blockages are good. I'm not saying plaque is good. What I am saying is it's nowhere near sufficient to explain why people have heart attacks," Cowan says.
"Every week somebody comes in and says 'I'm not feeling as well as I used to. I have some chest pain, a little shortness of breath walking up the hills. I went on a 5-mile walk yesterday and I'm not doing as well as I used to. I went to the cardiologist. He did tests and found I have a 95 percent blockage in one of my coronary arteries. He said if it blocks any more, I'll have a heart attack and die… [and that I] better have a stent or an angioplasty.'
I think to myself, No. 1, if all of the blood flow comes through these coronary arteries and he's got 95 percent blockage of this major vessel, how did he walk up this 5-mile hill? In fact, how is he even standing upright if he's got less than 5 percent blood flow to a major part of his heart?
So, you mean to tell me if he blocks from 5 percent to 2 percent, that's it? Curtains in, you die? The reality is 5 percent is 0 percent, and blocking to 2 percent is the same as 0 percent. It's very clear that the theory that the blood squeezes through the bottle neck in the vessel is complete nonsense.
The blood does not squeeze through the bottleneck. It bypasses it. It goes through these collateral vessels and the flow is more or less normal, although there is some problem in the heart, but it's not because of that blockage. That's why the Mayo Clinic and other studies, when they unblock the blockage, it doesn't do any good for the patient."
In Cowan's view, there is only a small subset of patients that might benefit from bypass intervention, specifically if you have a greater than 90 percent stenosis (blockage) of the proximal part (the early part) of the left anterior descending (the primary artery that supplies blood to your heart).
The Real Cause of Heart Attacks
If a blockage isn't the cause of the heart attack, then what is? Cowan makes a strong case for three basic causes of heart attacks, in the following order of importance or likelihood:
1. Decreased parasympathetic tone followed by sympathetic nervous system activation. You have two nervous systems, a central and an autonomic. Your autonomic nervous system has two arms: the sympathetic fight-or-flight, and the parasympathetic, which governs rest and digestion.
Decreased parasympathetic tone results from stress, diabetes, high blood pressure and other factors, including emotional and psychological ones. That's the first thing that happens. Then, while under the influence of a low parasympathetic tone, you experience some sort of emotional, psychological or physical stress that activates your sympathetic nervous system.
This shifts your cell metabolism from the mitochondria to the cytoplasm, meaning the cells in your heart shift from using fat for fuel, to generating fuel in a glycolytic way through the fermentation of sugar. Once that glycolytic shift occurs, you enter into glycolytic metabolism where you burn sugar for fuel and make lactic acid. As in other muscles, lactic acid in the heart muscle causes the telltale cramps and pain known as angina.